Valentino Rossi believes that he must improve his qualifying performance if he is to be the first rider to beat Marc Marquez this season.
Rossi has been second to the all-conquering Spanish youngster Marquez three times this season but harbors thoughts of reprising his glory days at the 2.93-mile circuit.
Rossi first won here in 1997 on an Aprilia, taking out the 125cc Catalunya GP. Since 2001 he has won six times in the premier MotoGP class — twice for Honda and four times with Yamaha.
The last of those wins was in 2009 when he pulled off an audacious final corner overtake to beat his then new young gun Yamaha teammate Jorge Lorenzo.
Now 35, Rossi is in seemingly ageless form.
“This track is fantastic for me and it is my favorite,” Rossi said of the Catalunya GP.
“Together with Mugello I like it so much although Mugello is much harder physically, and it is also more dangerous, but Barcelona gives great enjoyment on a MotoGP bike.
“I have had lot of victories here although the last was in 2009 in a great battle with Jorge on the final corner so the target is to try and stay with Jorge and Marc on Sunday.”
But improved qualifying performance is crucial with Rossi noting that his poor 10th-place starting spot at Mugello last week cost him any chance of joining the race battle with Marquez and Lorenzo.
“The 15 minutes of qualifying is now the wildest part of the weekend and everybody goes very, very fast and compared to the race the lap time goes down more than one second,” he said.
“Especially with Marc this year, he is always in pole, and also Jorge. Both are able to use the extra grip of the softer tire at 100 percent. Andrea Dovizioso is also very fast in this way.
“If you are 0.5s from pole position then it is very difficult. This year the Yamaha M1 is better with the new tire on braking so now it is just me, I need to do a good strategy to start in the top five and try for the front row.”
Rossi is yet to start on the front row this season with his best qualifying being fourth at Jerez for the Spanish GP. He finished second to Marquez in that race as well as Qatar and Le Mans.